Review: Bioshock Infinite

Will the circle be unbroken?

That ending.

In my opinion that ending is the greatest in a video game ever. But I will get to that later. And I'll try and keep it spoiler free.

Bioshock Infinite is Irrational Games's newest..well..game (one could also call it their magnum opus), and it continues the developer's tradition of completely immersive worlds, interesting characters, and pointed commentary about video games,and life, on a very meta-level. This is all covered in the guise of a gloriously inventive shooter, just begging for no strategies or playthroughs to be exactly the same.

The game follows Booker DeWitt, a broken former 7th Calvary member, hero of the Battle of Wounded Knee, and Pinkerton (he was kicked out of the Pinkertons. Keep that in mind.) Booker arrives in Columbia, a city in the sky explicitly designed to be an idealized America built by Zachary Hale Comstock, a prophet with clarivoianic tendencies (I think I just coined a word.) His mission: Rescue Elizabeth, a girl with...special powers, including but not limited to pulling money, ammo, health, and salts (I will explain..) out of nowhere.

That wasn't supposed to be a knock. Even on Easy difficultly, Elizabeth saved my life multiple times. Once you initially reach her about an hour into the 10-to-12 hour campaign, depending on your itch to explore, she rarely leaves your side, and when she does, she is sorely missed. In addition to tossing your ammo and the like, she can open Tears, which assist you along your journey. These Tears can range from medkits to automatons who can fire upon your enemies and draw some heat off of you. While these Tears aren't really needed when you first get access to them, they become extremely useful in the mid-to-late game. However, Elizabeth is not alone. Her guardian, a massive steel bird, is angry, and it wants Booker's blood and Elizabeth back.

Most of the gameplay mechanics from the original Bioshock return (notable exception of the hacking mechanic), to the complete non-detriment of the game. Plasmids return as Vigors, with Eve being replaced by Salts. There are some fun, new Vigors such as Bucking Bronco, which launches enemies into air and allows you to pick them off, along with some franchise stalwarts such as Hypnotize. Gene tonics return as Gear, with four equippable slots: Hat, Shirt, Pants, and Shoes. Some weapons also return, although they stray closer to the conventional weapons like carbine, machine gun, pistol, etc. And you can only carry two.

Which brings me to what is perhaps my biggest gripe about the game: Yes, there room for experimentation, but there just isn't as much as there was in the original. In the original you could carry, like, 8 weapons, allowing you, equipped with Plasmids, to be ready for just about any situation. However, in Infinite, the two-weapon limit leads to you having to potentially drop a weapon you like to effectively finish the sometimes quite long fight sequences (even though Bucking Bronco + Shotgun = Skip to ending.).

Bioshock Infinite having long fight sequences instead of multiple smaller encounters works in the game's favor, in my opinion. The fight sequences are interspersed with equally long (and sometimes much more interesting) stretches where you are allowed to explore the area of Columbia that you're in. These sections would be boring if Columbia weren't so fully realized as a city worth exploring. Unlike Rapture, Columbia is living, breathing, full of life. Case in point: Extremely early on in the game you get the chance to throw a ball at an interracial couple. Children play in the streets; Families sit down for picnics in the town square; Denizens marvel at Vigors being demonstrated at the Raffle and Fair. However, Columbia is also built to make you, the player, uncomfortable; the game takes place in 1912, after all, and the attitudes of its citizens reflect the attitudes of the time. Columbia is as much as a character in the story as Booker, Elizabeth, or Comstock, and the game is infinitely (pun somewhat intended) better for it.

And that brings me to the ending. The gloriously executed, wondrously confusing, profound ending. It will confuse some, infuriate others, but when you get it, it is an amazing feeling. The game's ending deals not with matters of secularism vs religion, but with the choices we make, revealing itself as a mediation on both video games and life itself.

Bioshock Infinite is an experience that is not to be missed. Buy it.

Oh..you want numbers?

9.3/10

Here's the original review on my blog (sorry for the absolutely shameless self promotion):
http://theonehandednoob.blogspot.com/2013/03/review-bioshock-infinite.html

 

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